Emily Bett Rickards on the Rise and Rise of Felicity Smoak
With news of Emily Bett Rickard’s promotion to series regular coming relatively late in the show’s first season, Arrow fans are only now seeing how Felicity Smoak’s expanded role is impacting the series.
And with the season 2 premiere placing Felicity front and center, dodging bullets and land mines, negotiating a deadly climb through an elevator shaft and clinching her sexy co star Stephen Amell, it seems Rickards and Felicity have hit the ground running this season.
“When we got to see her in the first season, she was just working in the IT department,” says Emily of Felicity’s meteoric rise. “We got to see her before she became involved with the Vigilante. She started out as a very normal person but then we got to see her placed in a series of very extraordinary circumstances.”
Emily accepts that seeing her character’s journey from this viewpoint has helped make her relatable to Arrow’s audience. “Getting thrown into those events certainly makes her story relatable,” the Arrow star agrees. “We get to consider how we might react in the same circumstances. I suppose that’s why we love stories so much.”
On the temptation to ‘superhero-ize’ Felicity in some way, a la plans for Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance, Emily reflects. “I’m not sure. I don’t know that there’s a need to superhero-ize her. She’s so smart that she’s able to be a contender, and hold her own against Diggle with his background and experience in Afghanistan and Oliver’s Island training. She’s got the brains. She’s got that power, and the feminine power too. I think that’s what makes her a contender in that sense. I’m not sure if she’ll ever get superpowers. I hope that whatever happens to her, she’ll always be as relatable as she is now.”
Season 2 is set to see an upcoming episode arc featuring Barry Allen’s The Flash (played by Grant Gustin of Glee fame.) The storyline will eventually serve as a jumping off point for a new spinoff series. With Arrow co-star Colton Haynes (Roy Harper) recently teasing that ‘Olicity’ shippers may be thrown a curveball this season due to some interesting chemistry between Felicity and the Flash, we ask Emily what she can reveal about this particular nugget.
“What can I share? What can I share? I guess I can share that Colton has put me in a pickle here!” she laughs. “We’re actually on set and he’s here right now doing ADR, so I’m going to let him have it!”
“But yes, we’re going to meet more characters on the show this season,” she confirms. “Felicity is a smart lovable human being. Whether it works out between her and Oliver? Well it’s gotta work out with somebody eventually. She’s not going to be a loner forever. She’s always telling Oliver that he’s gotta open up and have a real life but I think she takes her own advice more than he does. She doesn’t want to see her friends becoming trapped in this isolated way of life, but she doesn’t want to become trapped by it herself either. If she is to meet someone – and there is chemistry between her and Barry – she’s going to try to take her own advice as much as possible. There are sparks in the second season. Lots of sparks!”
Will these sparks change the dynamic between Felicity and Oliver or will Barry Allen ultimately prove to be a flash in the pan? “It puts them on a different wavelength,” explains Emily. There’s a whole other topic to be discussed. It’s safe right now if Oliver is the only other man in her life but is that where she needs to be? I think we’ve all been in that situation before too. You have the friend and then the friend starts seeing somebody and then you have to consider what feelings arise from that. Do you ignore your feelings? If you play host to them it’s going to get you into trouble either way, as romance does. It’s interesting to see a normal relationship explored like that. It’s such a common thing in people’s lives after all. Should we stay friends? Should we not? How much do I love you? How much do you mean to me? I think it’s something we first discover when we’re young. Then it happens when we’re adults, and then you’re like ‘Oh! I’m still doing that!’ Do you know what I mean?”
“Sweetie, you have no idea!”
She laughs. “There have been so many songs written on that subject. People love to watch it and we love to listen to it … but we hate doing it ourselves.”
Originally slated to appear in a single episode, Felicity was “well liked and needed” for repeat appearances which in time, grew to a series regular role. “I’m really grateful for that,” she says. “I love that she was needed. She has this quirky energy. She’s funny, and I love how’s she grown.” It appears that Felicity’s growth – particularly her emotional growth – is something fans will continue to see this season, according to Emily.
“She’s such an awkward individual when she doesn’t know somebody. Getting to know somebody on this level is really opening her up to relationships in her life that she’s never had before. And what I mean by that is that she’s never been that comfortable around people before. We’re getting to know her better and it’s interesting seeing her connect on a different level and being a little more vulnerable and being able to express different emotions. I don’t think she would be able to express those emotions to Oliver and Diggle if she hadn’t been friends with them for so long. We’ll definitely get to see more emotional range.”
Speaking of Felicity’s awkwardness around characters she doesn’t know well, we can’t help but comment on Paul Blackthrone’s character Quentin Lance, who, before he was busted down to Beat Cop (following the earthquake in the Glades), seemed likely to get to Oliver by leaning on Felicity. With the sudden change in Lance’s job description, there seems to be room for an interesting dynamic between these two former adversaries.
“We do get to see these guys interact more, and it’s definitely on the same professional scale. What’s interesting between them is that they were both chosen by Arrow. Quentin doesn’t really know if Felicity is truly part of the inner circle or if she knows Oliver’s real identity, but what’s really interesting between the two of them, and where they have an understanding is they’re both civilians, for want of a better word, who have been hand-picked. To have that knowledge is a huge responsibility. They’re the only two people who can share in that un-gated pathway. For Quentin, it’s especially important because he doesn’t know anyone else who knows the Vigilante.”
As a character who treads an emotional tightrope week after week, we ask Emily how she would define the nature of Felicity’s complicated and oblique relationship with Oliver Queen.
She laughs. “I think it’s guarded, but I think it’s also expanding. It’s interesting. I see them both trying to take down each other’s guard. I think what happens is that Oliver doesn’t realize he’s doing it to Felicity, and Felicity gets a little bit jarred by it. They both care for each other a lot. And they want to protect each other. Oliver is so stable in his instability. If he were to crack Felicity would crack too. They’re that connected. They rely on each other to that extent.”
According to Emily, Diggle (David Ramsey) represents another means of support. “They support each other, and they can talk to each other without the barriers that Oliver presents,” she notes. “Oliver has so many masks. Plus they both share a concern for Oliver. There’s so much support that comes from Diggle and Felicity’s relationship. Felicity couldn’t do this without Diggle. When Oliver doesn’t understand something, another person is needed to help her cope and that person is Digg.”
Looking ahead, the season will also see the return of Fringe alum Seth Gabel who will reprise his role as Count Vertigo, news of which broke during our interview. When we mention that the internet has just gone wild over the news, Emily’s response is immediate.
“Oh good!” she laughs. “I’m glad. He’s unreal to work with by the way. He brings a lot to the table. He’s fantastic.” Asked what the Count will be up to, Emily teases “He’s still an extremely dangerous villain. He has been trapped with his anger for a very long time and he’s ready to explode. That’s a very dangerous situation for everyone!”
Looking further ahead Emily also teases that “We’re going to see the trio go abroad, but we’ll also get to see them work independently. And obviously we have the Flash coming on. Those episodes are massive. It’s such an amazing story. Comic book fans, and fans of the show too, are just going to adore everything that comes with that.”
Catch Emily Bett Rickards as Arrow’s Felicity Smoak, Wednesdays on the CW in the US and Mondays on SKY 1 in the UK.